Friday, June 13, 2014

Google My Business



In one of our previous blog posts, we had been talking about the Google Places updates saying that Google has been automatically upgrading Google Places listings from the old system to the new Google Places dashboard and creating Google Plus pages under the same Gmail address.

On the 11th of June, Google launched “Google My Business” which is a further integration for putting all Google services useful to businesses in one place, helping businesses connect with customers via Search, Maps, and Google+.

The former page management dashboard has been replaced by a cleaner-looking My Business page and it makes it easier than ever to update the business information. From that page, managers can post content, track analytics, respond to customers, and even launch Google Hangouts. The new system will also integrate with Google's AdWords platform and provide businesses with data about customers and engagement.



The main benefits of Google My Business for customer engagement can be summarized as below.

• Update your business info on Search, Maps, and Google+ to make it easy for customers to get in touch.
• Add photos of your business and a virtual tour of your business interior to help customers see what makes your business unique.
• Connect directly with your fans and customers by sharing news, events, and other important updates from your Google+ page.
• Stay on top of reviews from across the Web, and respond to Google reviews.
• Understand how people find and interact with your business using Custom Insights and integration with AdWords Express.

Signing up for Google My Business

You can simply click the “Get on Google” button at the top of the Google My Business homepage, and follow the steps to add your business information to Google. Please note that any edits will not appear on Google until you verify your business. If your business has ten or more locations, you can add them all at once using the bulk upload tool.

Business owners that had been using Places for Business or Google+ will be transitioned to the new platform. In other words, if you previously used Google Places for Business or Google+ Pages Dashboard to manage your business information, your account has been automatically upgraded to Google My Business.

This new platform will also be welcomed by people who manage non-local Google Plus pages.

If you have a local business and would like to discuss about your integrated local marketing strategy, you are always welcome to give our Digital Consultants a call on 01202 678777.

Author: Aysegul Yigitbasi

Monday, June 09, 2014

Top Ten Tips for YouTube company page enagegement

YouTube is a great channel for engagement with a targeted audience
YouTube Engagement Tips

We are regularly asked for our top tips for engaging on social networks. This month we will share some tips for engaging and optimising your YouTube channel pages.

1. Know who, what and why you are connecting on YouTube.  Define your goals and sketch out a storyboard of the video content in a video strategy document.

2. Create a content plan for uploads and comments on other channels. Create consistent, relevant content for each audience, on a regular basis.

3. Listen and know your audience. Interact with your audience. Talk directly to your audience. Respond expediently to comments, establish your expertise, inspire discussions, encourage sharing and build relationships.

4. Identify and follow similar people, influencers, events and organisations. Comment on relevant videos that support your brand identity,

5. Choose a visually appealing cover image. First impressions count. Also select attractive thumbnails for each engagement-focused video clip.

6. Add keywords and full URL link on the first line of the description that links to your website. Add interesting profile information in the About Us section. Add a call to action; written in the description, in the video, or within the video annotation for engagement and to encourage visitors to research your brand further, especially where the profile has a review.

7. Optimise videos uploaded with SEO rich descriptions and tags. Generally, keep the video under 4 minutes: maximum 5 minutes for training videos and short 30 second personal story snippets for variety of engagement options. There are a few specific YouTube optimisation tips in this earlier blog post and YouTube channel optimisation tips.

8. Submit an XML file to Google identifying videos on your website; visitors will then come through to your website rather than to your YouTube page for fuller brand engagement.

9. Make the most of the monitoring and measurement activity metrics that matter on the page, including: Subscribers, Favourites, Shares; Likes to dislikes ratio; Sentiment of comments (ratio of positive/negative); Video retention; Tracking attention span and viewership is helpful in determining a level of interest, repeat this monitoring over a period over a period of time, to assist with benchmarking improvements and gaining insights into trends.

10. Cross promote other channels from your YouTube account by adding links to social profiles on your other networks for cross-device and cross-channel experience.

With 31% of YouTube users saying they would be among the first people to try new products, compared with 14 per cent of non-YouTube users; that's a big market out their for businesses and video is certainly worth factoring into a digital marketing strategy.

Author: Fiona Anderson



Saturday, May 31, 2014

Some Pros and Cons of Display Advertising



Google has a well established display advertising offer
Google Display Advertising

As part of a businesses digital transformation, it is likely that a business will want to consider whether or not to use ‘display advertising’ in AdWords. We have outlined some quick pros and cons of display advertising to assist a business with the decision making.

The business would need to do some restructuring of the AdWords account.
Budget would be required, either additional budget be assigned, or diverted from existing campaigns.
A web developer would need to add some additional tracking code to the website.

The primary use of display advertising and not just in AdWords, has generally be considered for Brand building, although some businesses do manage to make display advertising drive leads and sales, where Brand building is a positive side-effect.

Display ads have an incredibly low engagement rate: the average banner ad has a 0.1% click through rate (CTR) and the standard 468x60 banner has a 0.04% CTR

The key to making display advertising cost effect and gaining a decent ROI/be profitable, a business
would need to:
1.    optimise every single part of the online conversion funnel
2.    place ads on websites your target market visits
3.    design optimised ads that relate to the content on those sites
4.    the message, and especially the headline, is a vital component in successful display advertising
5.    ‘message match’ - when visitors are instantly reaffirmed that they can get what they came for – because the headline matches the link (or ad) they came from – they are more likely to remain on the landing page
6.    poor message match will produce a higher bounce rate which is interpreted by Google as a poor user experience. The stronger your message match is, the better the user experience is – making the account history more positive, in turn lowering the costs
7.    the display ad has a graphical component to it, which needs to follow the design of the ad through to the landing page
8.    develop landing pages that align with the ads and the websites they're placed on
9.    A focused landing page, on the other hand, has an attention ratio of 1:1. (whereas, if the visitor is sent to the homepage we could expect that this would typically be around 40:1 meaning that there are 19 distracting actions and 1 desired action – hence needing a focused landing page).

Display advertising has always been considered ‘tough’. The debate continues in the industry as some speculate that there are up to 54% of online display ads “never even seen”.
Some of the wastage can be attributed to the user’s journey:
•    technical glitches, such as when an ad is displayed on a part of a browser not open on a computer screen
•    user habits
•    users not scrolling below the fold
•    users clicking away before the ad can load
•    and even outright fraud based on fake traffic

The overall stats for paying attention to any kind of advert is 6% - 8% (if the stats can be believed)
There are businesses that get some better results by making their ads interactive and rich media display formats.

In conclusion:
If a business's’s Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is awareness, then display advertising is one of the channels that business could consider using.

If a business is still in the early stages of currently trying to determine audience and message via PPC, reviewing their Google analytics reporting, especially Demographics and Interest Reports and testing which ads work, then it is worth noting that display advertising is even more challenging if audience and message are not already established.

PS
If the above doesn’t convince you then maybe these 2 negative 'tongue-in-cheek' quotes/stats will:
  • You are more likely to complete NAVY SEAL training than click a banner ad.
  • The average person is served over 1,700 banner ads per month. Do you remember any?
On the other hand, this recent quote from Econsultancy about Display Retargeting could be a tempting way into display advertising
  • Display retargeting tags are present on 52% of the top 2,000 UK websites and 48% of the top US websites. 
There are pros and cons but it is worth considering, if only for the following 2 reasons:
  • Display advertising in UK accounted for 30% of spend in 2013, similar to previous years.
  • Rich media images, animation and video are often more attractive to a user than static text and form part of the increasing 'visual web'.

We hope this helps answer some of your display advertising queries, compiled with thanks to some well known comments by industry experts on display advertising. We look forward to hearing from you on whether your business would like to pursue Display Advertising as a online marketing channel.


Author: Fiona Anderson

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Quick Overview on Google Places Updates


Google+ Local Overview

As you may have noticed, Google has been automatically upgrading Google Places listings from the old system to the new Google Places dashboard and creating Google Plus pages under the same Gmail address. This resulted in the existence of two (or more) Google Plus Pages for a given local business - one for business and at least one for local.

Currently, it is not possible to merge two Google+ Pages (unless they are both of the type: local and for the same business at the same address). It is also not possible to pass followers from one page to another.

To make the decision to handle these accounts and to determine which of your pages should get the most exposure, you need to think about the following questions:

• What is the goal of your social presence and who is the target audience?
• Is the company national in scope or do most of its customers come from the immediate region?

Within this update , there has also been a change on the Google Places quality guidelines (changed on Feb 2014). You can now include a single descriptor to your business’ real-world title that helps customers locate your business or understand what your business offers. However, marketing taglines, phone numbers, store codes, or URLs are not valid descriptors.

Examples of acceptable titles with descriptors (in italics for demonstration purposes) are "Starbucks Downtown" or "Joe’s Pizza Restaurant". Examples that would not be accepted would be "#1 Seattle Plumbing", "Joe’s Pizza Best Delivery" or "Joe’s Pizza Restaurant Dallas".

If you are not sure about your Google Places settings, please review Google Places quality guidelines because failure to follow most of them will either keep you from being listed at all or from ranking well in Google.

If you have a local business and would like to discuss about your integrated local marketing strategy, you are always welcome to give our Digital Consultants a call on 01202 678777.

Author: Aysegul Yigitbasi

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Geek Video of the Month



This month’s Geek Video of the Month is a Multi-platform 3rd person shooter-strategy game "HordeMaster" which has been developed by Gamester, the start-up company, based in Istanbul, Turkey.

“This browser-based Flash multiplayer game blends elements from the RPG, strategy and third-person genres together. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, gamers are tasked with building a base from which they can conquer the world. Half of the game plays like a Tower Defence title as players attempt to design a base that other users will find hard to penetrate, while the other half is styled as a shooter in which players raid other users’ bases”. Develop, 2014

This game can be played smoothly even on the devices with low configuration, and even though it has a high visual quality, it does not require any plug-ins to play on PC and mobile devices.

HordeMaster hasn’t been officially released yet, however, it has already won several awards:

• Best “Social, Casual and Online” game – Selected Projects, Game Connection America 2014

• Most Anticipated Facebook MMO – Level magazine, Turkey

A few months ago, a closed beta test was conducted by Gamester with a small group of players and lots of changes were made to the game taking the feedback into consideration.

HordeMaster beta will be live very soon, so stay tuned... In the meantime, you may want to sign up for Beta access to get notified when Hordemaster is available to play.

Author: Aysegul Yigitbasi



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What is Heartbleed?



Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of talk about Heartbleed and the potential dangers it poses to anyone with an online presence.

There are many questions that have been posed to us such as;

“Will I need to update my antivirus?”
“Should I log in to my online banking?”
“When is it safe to venture back online?”

In this blog we will be debunking the myths and supplying you with what you need to know to stay safe and secure from Heartbleed.

Heartbleed, a brief story

To understand Heartbleed, we need to take a look at the software it affects. Heartbleed affects a piece of software known as OpenSSL. OpenSSL is security based software that is used on many popular servers such as Google. With OpenSSL, websites are able encrypt information sent to and from their visitors. So when you login to a site and provide your username and password, this information is encrypted using OpenSSL and sent to the server so that other users can’t snoop on your personal data.

OpenSSL is open source, which means that exceptionally talented individual software engineers volunteer to help the internet community by developing and improving upon it. When version 1.0.1 of OpenSSL was released in April 19th of 2012, a bug was introduced (a mistake made by a software engineer that has un-desired results). This bug came to be known as Heartbleed.

How Heartbleed affects the server?

When you access to a website, the website sends a response back to you to let you know that it is active and listening for requests. This is known as a heartbeat. The server also sets aside a block of memory for you to use during your time on the website. When you send a request from your computer, the heartbeat from the server will only send back the amount required for your request. So when you click "login", the server will send back only the data necessary to complete the login, storing any necessary information into your block of memory.

However, with servers affected by Heartbleed, hackers can request more than the data they sent, meaning they can retrieve more data back then what is in their own block of memory. This gives them the potential to obtain other peoples’ data.

What might be in this data? It could be anything from login credentials, cookies and other data, depending on the server affected and how it is set up.

So what should you do to keep safe?

Well, it turns out that the number of servers actually affected by Heartbleed is lower than first thought. This is because Heartbleed only affects servers with OpenSSL 1.0.1 – any older versions do not have the “Heartbeat” feature and the newer version – 1.0.1g – has had the bug fixed.

So should you worry? We think you should be more wary of your data, but don’t panic. You should change your passwords for the services that have been affected by Heartbleed. Services such as Google and Yahoo have emailed their users and informed them that they were affected by this bug. You should look out for other incoming emails from services that confirm if they have been affected and change your passwords for them too. There are services that allow you to manage all of your passwords in one place, such as LastPass or 1Password if (like me) you have trouble remembering all those passwords.

Have hackers been exploiting this?

There’s nothing to suggest that hackers knew of and have been actively using this bug, but that is not to say that they haven’t. The above suggestions are a precaution, now that Heartbleed is known more people will attempt to exploit servers that haven’t been updated yet.

What devices does this affect?

This can affect any device, your mobile phone, tablets, anything. The problem isn’t your device, but the server you are connecting to.

What about Rocktime?

The vast majority of our servers are Windows Servers, which use different encryption software, so these aren’t affected. Our Linux server has been updated with the latest OpenSSL which removes the Heartbleed bug.

If you would like to learn more about this subject or about any other technical challenges you are facing, feel free to contact our Digital Consultants.

Author: Jay Martin-Smith

Monday, April 07, 2014

Domain Authority Page Authority Linking and Google Ranking Factors in 2014


Open Site Exploer tool from Moz assists in defining competitive linking
Learn about a site's domain authority, top pages etc with Open Site Explorer

  • Tools to measure Domain Authority and Page Authority
Some of our clients have shown an interest in knowing what tools are available to measure the domain authority and page ranking for their business. We prefer to refer to this as Authority rather than Ranking.


We would be happy for businesses to trust the data shown in the Moz Open Site Explorer Tool to measure domain and page authority.


The Chrome extension PageRank Status can also be used for quick updates; it sits in the bookmark toolbar and takes seconds to load a number of very useful details and metrics about a website, to get a quick understanding of a business’s position.

One thing to consider when using Toolbar metric scores, is that they are designed to be used as an 'indicator' rather than a reliable score.

  • Measuring Domain Authority and Page Authority linking metrics
Domain Authority works on a algorithm which scores a website out of 100 (a higher score is better).
Page Authority is a calculated metric for how well a given webpage is likely to rank in Google.com's search results.

Domain Authority measures the strength of entire domains or subdomains, whereas Page Authority measures the predictive ranking strength of a single page.

Page Authority is difficult to influence directly. It is made up of an aggregate of metrics that each have an impact on this score. This was done intentionally; this metric is meant to approximate how competitive a given site is in Google.com. Since Google takes a lot of factors into account, a metric that tries to calculate it must incorporate a lot of factors, as well.

  • How to interpret the findings
It is recommended by industry experts that Domain Authority is viewed as a competitive metric against other sites, as opposed to a historic measure of your internal SEO efforts.

It's best to use Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) as comparative metrics when doing research in the search results and determining which sites / pages may have more powerful / important link profiles than another.

  • Best Practice Linking
This image below, shared in Smashing Magazine 2007 is often used to explain PageRank, though much has changed since then in terms of linking best practice, one such example is evident in the name 'link earning'; the value of links has evolved far beyond ranking factors. As an example, Businesses need to be aware that Google actively penalise for paying for blogger reviews on a blogger review network for instance. 'Natural' and 'not paid' is the only acceptable link in 2014 and importantly, generating referral traffic that drives 'real value' and 'builds long-term authority' for a website.


PageRank is used as an indicator of ranking strength
PageRank has gone through many changes since 2007

  • Google Ranking Factors
Google has over 200 Ranking Factors. These factors are updated on a fairly regular basis; sometimes as many 500 algorithmic updates in a year. Last major update 6 December 2013. The chaps at Backlinko have compiled a complete list and below is a selection of some relevant best practice factors that most businesses are either doing or planning to do through their search marketing activities with Rocktime.

This list has some general priority to the order but Google does not stipulate ‘exact’ priority when it comes to social signals or being an authority on a topic etc. instead Google talks in terms of strong, medium and weak signals to assist with their ranking algorithms and what elements of a website to optimise.


  • Some Google Ranking Factors Listed
Keyword As First Word in Domain: a domain that starts with a target keyword has an edge over sites that either don’t have the keyword in their domain or have the keyword in the middle or end of their domain

Keyword in Subdomain Name: a keyword appearing in the subdomain boosts rank

Keyword in Title Tag / Page Title: The title tag is a webpage’s second most important piece of content (besides the content of the page) and therefore sends a strong on-page SEO signal.

Page Title / Title Tag Starts with Keyword: title tags that starts with a keyword tend to perform better than title tags with the keyword towards the end of the tag

Keyword Appears in H1 Tag: H1 tags are a “second title tag” that sends another relevancy signal to Google

Use of Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools: having these two programs installed on your site can improve your page’s indexing.

Breadcrumb Navigation: This is a style of user-friendly site-architecture that helps users (and search engines) know where they are on a site:

Page Loading Speed via HTML: Both Google and Bing use page loading speed as a ranking factor. Search engine spiders can estimate your site speed fairy accurately based on a page’s code and file size.

Duplicate Content: Identical content on the same site (even slightly modified) can negatively influence a site’s search engine visibility.

Rel=Canonical: When used properly, use of this tag may prevent Google from considering pages duplicate content.

Image Optimisation: Images on-page send search engines important relevancy signals through their file name, alt text, title, description and caption.

Broken Links: Having too many broken links on a page may be a sign of a neglected or abandoned site. The Google Rater Guidelines Document uses broken links as one was to assess a homepage’s quality.

Keyword in URL: Another important relevancy signal.

HTML errors/WC3 validation: Lots of HTML errors or sloppy coding may be a sign of a poor quality site. WC3 validation is a moderate signal.

Site Architecture: A well put-together site architecture (especially a silo structure) helps Google thematically organise your content.

Presence of Sitemap: A sitemap helps search engines index your pages easier and more thoroughly, improving visibility.

Priority of Page in Sitemap: The priority a page is given via the sitemap.xml file may influence ranking.

Site Usability: A site that’s difficult to use or to navigate can hurt ranking by reducing time on site, pages viewed and bounce rate.

Keyword is Most Frequently Used Phrase in Document: Having a keyword appear more than any other likely acts as a relevancy signal.

Content Length:  Content with more words can cover a wider breadth and are likely preferred to shorter superficial articles.

Recency of Content Updates: Google Caffeine update favours recently updated content, especially for time-sensitive searches.

Magnitude of Content Updates: The significance of edits and changes is also a freshness factor. Adding or removing entire sections is a more significant update than switching around the order of a few words.

Historical Updates Page Updates: How often has the page been updated over time? Daily, weekly, every 5-years? Frequency of page updates also play a role in freshness.

Keyword Word Order: An exact match of a searcher’s keyword in a page’s content will generally rank better than the same keyword phrase in a different order.

Outbound Link Quality: linking out to relevant authority sites helps send trust signals to Google.

Helpful Supplementary Content: helpful supplementary content is an indicator of a page’s quality – how to calculate, how to use, top tips.

Multimedia: Images, videos and other multimedia elements may act as a content quality signal.

Number of Internal Links Pointing to Page: The number of internal links to a page indicates its importance relative to other pages on the site.

Quality of Internal Links Pointing to Page: Internal links from authoritative pages on domain have a stronger effect.

Internal Link Anchor Text: Internal link anchor text is another relevancy signal, although probably weighed differently than backlink anchor text.

Page Category: The category the page appears on is a relevancy signal. A page that’s part of a closely related category should get a relevancy boost compared to a page that’s filed under an unrelated or less related category.

Bullets and Numbered Lists: Bullets and numbered lists help break up your content for readers, making them more user friendly. Google likely agrees and may prefer content with bullets and numbers.

User reviews/Site reputation: A site’s on review sites likely play an important role in the algorithm.

Linking Root Domains: The number of referring domains, domain authority, and aged domains is one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s algorithm,

Social Shares of Referring Page: The amount of page-level social shares may influence the link’s value.

Diversity of Link Types: links from diverse sources is a sign of a natural link profile.

Bounce Rate: a way for Google to use the users as quality testers

Direct Traffic: It’s confirmed that Google uses data from Google Chrome to determine whether or not people visit a site (and how often). Sites with lots of direct traffic are likely higher quality than sites that get very little direct traffic.

Repeat Traffic: They may also look at whether or not users go back to a page or site after visiting. Sites with repeat visitors may get a Google ranking boost.

Number of Comments: Pages with lots of comments may be a signal of user-interaction and quality.

Dwell Time: Google pays very close attention to “dwell time”: how long people spend on your page when coming from a Google search. This is also sometimes referred to as “long clicks vs short clicks”. If people spend a lot of time on your site, that may be used as a quality signal.

Google+ Circles: Google shows higher results for authors and sites that you’ve added to your Google Plus Circles

Local Searches: Google often places Google+ Local results above the “normal” organic SERPs.

Number of Tweets: Like links, the tweets a page has may influence its rank in Google.

Authority of Twitter Users Accounts: It’s likely that Tweets coming from aged, authority Twitter profiles with a ton of followers have more of an effect than tweets from new, low-influence accounts.

Facebook Shares: Facebook shares — because they’re more similar to a backlink — may have a stronger influence than Facebook likes.

Authority of Facebook User Accounts: As with Twitter, Facebook shares and likes coming from popular Facebook pages may pass more weight.

NB
Number of Google+1′s: Google+ has “no direct effect” on rankings
Google would weigh +1′s coming from authoritative accounts more than from accounts without many followers.

Verified Google+ Authorship: In February 2013, Google CEO Eric Schmidt famously claimed:
Verified authorship may already be a trust signal.

Site Level Social Signals: Site-wide social signals may increase a site’s overall authority, which will increase search visibility for all of its pages.

Employees Listed at Linkedin: having Linkedin profiles that say they work for your company is a brand signal.

Mobile Optimised: Google’s official stance on mobile is to create a responsive site. It’s likely that responsive sites get an edge in searches from a mobile device.

YouTube: There’s no doubt that YouTube videos are given preferential treatment in the search engine results page (SERPs); probably because Google owns it.



Well, there is always plenty to get on with, within an integrated digital strategy or digital transformation strategy! As long as the content is written for the viewer and not to please Google, then a business is on the right track at least.

If you want to share your thoughts on this blog, or gain other insights into making your site ready in this age of the customer, you are always welcome to give our Digital Strategists a call on 01202 678777. It is very satisfying to see the results and return on investment gained together!


Author: Fiona Anderson